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Tag: Sin

Quote of the Day: How Evangelicals Justify Past Sexual Sin — Jesus Forgives, So Should We

josh duggar

Often this narrative [sin and redemption] is particularly prevalent among evangelicals who have been accused of sexual misconduct. After evangelical television personality Josh Duggar confessed to molesting his sisters as a teenage boy, he and his family used the salvation playbook. Michael Seewald, whose son is married to one of Duggar’s sisters, spoke out against the media condemnation of Duggar, who was never charged with a crime: “The ultimate answer … is what Josh found and millions like him. He found forgiveness and cleansing from Jesus Christ. There are many of you that are reading these words right now having had thoughts and deeds no better than what Josh had and did.”

Disgraced megachurch founder Ted Haggard resigned his post in 2006, after admitting to drug abuse and a sex scandal with a male sex worker. He returned to public church life with similar rhetoric: “I am a sinner and [my wife] is a saint. … I feel we have moved past the scandal. We have forgiveness. It is a second chance.”

In other words, there’s a tendency among evangelicals to see sexual (or other) sins that have happened long ago (or even not that long ago), either prior to conversion itself or prior to a “re-conversion” or renewal of faith, as, well, natural. Of course people commit sinful acts, because sin is part of the human condition, and of course people are victims of sin without God’s grace to help free them of it.

There are a few problems with how this manifests in practice. It can absolve “saved” individuals of too much responsibility for past misdeeds, since they’re considered the deeds of a past, different self. It encourages a culture of silence among evangelicals about their struggles, since salvation is “supposed” to mean that temptation goes away, and any “backsliding” is the result of insufficient faith. Finally, this theological approach also means that “sins” tend to be conflated, especially sexual sins: consensual premarital sex and sexual abuse are often seen on the same spectrum, both the result of a temptation too great to bear.

Without God, the implication goes, people have almost no agency. In Moore’s case, the fact that his alleged sins happened so long ago — and that the intervening years have seen him become more and more committed to the idea of a theocratic Christian state— only intensify some evangelicals’ sense that Moore’s actions then (even if true) don’t necessarily have a bearing on who he is now. It’s also worth noting that in the aftermath of Trump’s campaign, evangelicals have done an extraordinary about-face when it comes to their view on the importance of politicians’ personal morality.

Many, many Christian scholars and thinkers have been intensely critical of this “get out of jail free” approach to sin and grace, as I noted earlier this month. Among the most prominent in the past century was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident who was executed in a concentration camp for his activism. Bonhoeffer distinguished between “cheap grace” — easy forgiveness that allowed individual perpetrators and oppressive societies to get away, unchallenged, with their actions — and “costly grace,” or forgiveness that also asks hard questions, and demands social change.

It’s worth noting, however, that several prominent evangelicals — including the president of Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm, Russell Moore (no relation) — have spoken out criticizing Moore’s evangelical supporters. “Christians, if you cannot say definitively, no matter what, that adults creeping on teenage girls is wrong, do not tell me how you stand against moral relativism,” Russell Moore tweeted.

Despite this, “cheap grace” has become seemingly common in some evangelical communities, especially when there are practical political or pragmatic reasons (i.e., a Republican in power) to overlook a sin and preserve the social status quo.

— Tara Isabella Burton, VOX, For Evangelicals, Sin is Redeemable — But can That Allow Sex offenders to Dodge their Actions? November 29, 2017

Charles Manson — Has Justice Been Served?

charles manson

Guest post by ObstacleChick

As many have heard, the famous 1960s cult leader Charles Manson died while serving a life sentence in prison. By all accounts, he was a charismatic, dictatorial cult leader whose followers murdered several people and created false “evidence” that the murders were perpetrated by African Americans in order to try to start a race war, after which (somehow) Charles Manson would rise victorious and lead after the chaos. While Charles Manson did not physically commit the murders – his followers did – he was deemed to have been the mastermind behind the crimes and was sentenced to death. When the state of California abolished the death penalty, Charles Manson’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison. Manson died at age 83 of natural causes.

I first heard of Manson’s death while checking my social media. One of my Christian friends posted a link to the story with her personal comment:

At long last, justice may be served to him, in death. I’m glad some of the victims’ loved ones are alive to know he no longer breathes, but will become dust, in a state of death, like his long-ago prey. I have a particular disgust for Manson, and the gruesome acts of his followers. He stole so many lives, including those of promising young people who joined his cult, and had their minds and souls hijacked. They are responsible, in the end, for their decisions, but, to an extent, were also victims. America lost part of its innocence in the Manson years, so I consider us all his victims. It may not be charitable to say so, but I am nearly always happy to hear when any despot or cult leader is dead.

Someone commented:

I believe he is now in hell and finally getting what he deserves.

Another commented:

He was Satan’s own. Now may he go back to where he belongs.

My first thought was, here we go with talk of heaven, hell, and divine justice again. My second thought was, wasn’t Charles Manson arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned for life? Is that not what our society deems as justice?

As one who does not believe in supernatural beings nor in an afterlife, I look to my society’s law enforcement and justice systems to resolve issues involving crime. While no system is perfect, our society’s system works in many cases, and, because it is an evolving society, it is possible for changes to occur within our systems so that they function more efficiently and fairly. However, I realize now that while religious people also are provided the protections of society’s law enforcement and judicial systems, they are also looking to their deity to mete out further justice in an afterlife. Therefore, Charles Manson, for example, has served life in prison for his crimes, and now after his death the Christian God will cast him into eternity in hell where he will burn or rot, depending on one’s definition of hell.

My friend is a Christian, and presumably many commenting on her post are Christians too. I saw many comments corroborating the concept that “now Charles Manson is receiving justice in hell.” These comments caused me to consider the concept of justice. Do these nice Christian men and women really not consider earthly justice “real justice”? Is God’s eternal justice the only true justice? What if Charles Manson had “gotten saved” before his death? According to these Christians’ religion, Charles Manson would be afforded the same afterlife of eternity in heaven as all these nice Christian people who have not persuaded others to commit multiple acts of murder. If one were to ask these nice Christian people if that is “real justice,” what would their answer be? I daresay many would find themselves in quite the conundrum when pressed for an honest answer.

Let us consider a few aspects of Christian justice. My friend and presumably many of her friends believe in the concept of original sin and salvation. Each person by birth is a sinner; the wages of sin are death – eternal death in hell; the only way to escape eternal death in hell is to repent of one’s sin, accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior, and to be baptized into a new life of service to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. Anyone may be saved – anyone – including Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and yes, Charles Manson – and anyone who is saved is granted the golden ticket to eternity in heaven. However, anyone who does NOT accept Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior will be condemned to eternity in hell. This includes Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Charles Manson, the young man in India who grew up Hindu, the old woman in Kuwait who grew up Muslim, the old man in China who grew up Buddhist, the middle-aged American woman who is an agnostic atheist. Each one deserves and is subject to the same fate: eternity in hell. Does that sound like justice? Adolf Hitler, who orchestrated a massive extermination enterprise, inhabits the same hell as the nice Muslim lady who was unfortunate enough to believe in the wrong type of deity and who never had the chance to hear about or accept the “correct” one?

It is also interesting to ponder the way Christians learn to overlay their beliefs about supernatural forces onto the natural world. They live in the world, but the world is also inhabited by angels and demons. A person who is “saved” is said to have Jesus living in his “heart.” An unsaved person may be possessed by demons or guided by demonic forces. A guardian angel may save someone from harm. Satan may tempt or guide someone to commit some horrific act. God may intervene to prevent a catastrophe. Christians live in a world where humans commit acts which may or may not be influenced by supernatural forces, where nature may or may not be changed by supernatural forces. There is a constant struggle going on around Christians at all times between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Many Christians believe that if they live a life in favor with God that He will save them from catastrophe, from the forces of evil, from evil acts perpetrated by humans (possibly under the influence of demons), unless He doesn’t physically save them from harm. When He doesn’t, then one must not question His Will, for we humans cannot fathom God’s divine plan.

I remember living in the world inhabited by angels and demons, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit and the Devil. As a child, I was terrified of the dark. No, not the dark, but by the monsters and demons that inhabit the dark. I was taught that monsters were not real, but that demons and the Devil were real and were eager to prey on the unsuspecting unsaved and ready to tempt the staunchest of believers. As a child I couldn’t discern the difference between fictitious monsters and real demons. We were living in a world surrounded by the forces of Good and Evil locked in a battle for our immortal souls. Then in the 1980s (my teenage years) came the whole Satanic scare in which everyone (Christians, that is) talked about Satanic rituals and kidnappings and sacrifices and pentagrams. All of us Christians were afraid, on alert to battle the forces of evil, while at the same time we were told that all we had to do to overcome demons and Satan was to demand in Jesus’ name that they leave, and that they must obey. Whenever I was scared of the dark, I used to pray that the demons and Devil leave in Jesus’ name. Then I felt better.

But we have adult Christians who weave their belief of supernatural forces into the acts of human beings. Believing that Charles Manson is under Satan’s control or perpetrating acts that are pleasing to Satan brings the concept of justice to a different level. While non-believers see Charles Manson as someone who chose to lead others to commit horrific murders, Christians see Charles Manson as a tool of Satan, perhaps inhabited by demons or at least under Satan’s control either through Manson’s free will or lack of free will. Non-believers see that Charles Manson was arrested by law enforcement officers, tried by a group of peers, sentenced by a judge, and served life in prison. Christians see this too, but they also anticipate judgment by God and eternity in hell as additional justice later, as if life in prison were not enough. And there is rejoicing among believers that finally Charles Manson will receive the justice he deserves.

I wanted to ask my friend’s commenters “what if Charles Manson had been saved before his death?” (It’s unlikely, as that turn of events would be too much for a pastor or chaplain to leave unannounced, either so he/she could receive credit or so that other unbelievers could be influenced to turn to the “truth” before it is too late, because, see, God is so great He can even forgive Charles Manson.) But I did not ask, mainly because this friend is one of the few from my evangelical past who knows that I am now an agnostic atheist, and I do not want to cause trouble for her amongst her crowd. But if Charles Manson had been saved before his death, should not good Christians rejoice in his repentance and his eternal glory in heaven with his Lord and Savior?

I imagine that by the convoluted system of Christian justice, those good Christians would say that yes, they rejoice in the power and mercy of God that he can even forgive the likes of Charles Manson. Conversely, they are glad to see that God, in all his glory as the almighty righteous judge, meted out eternal justice to Charles Manson as he never repented of his sins and accepted the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice. It just seems somehow inconsistent with the concept of goodness one associates with religion the glee that Christians were exhibiting over the death – no, the everlasting damnation in hell – of another human being.

I desperately wanted to engage in conversation on social media, but I refrained and wrote this post instead. In any case, Charles Manson served his life sentence and will never harm another person again, and for that we should be glad.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Franklin Graham Thinks Unbelievers Hate the Religious Right. He’s Right, We Do!

franklin graham
Comic by Keven Siers
As always, Fundamentalist Franklin Graham is clueless as to WHY unbelievers hate and despise the religious right. Look in the mirror Franklin. YOU are to blame.

America has flaunted its sexual immorality to the world. We’ve neglected many of the poor and suffering and are guilty of much injustice, pride and self-indulgence. We are broken spiritually, adrift morally and divided politically and racially—following whichever direction the bankrupt culture seems to drive us.

Sadly, the voices of hate have grown increasingly loud and insulting, and it was my prayer then and now that God would silence these voices like he shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was hurled into the den.

While those hateful voices have been raised on both sides of the political aisle, we must realize that ultimately what is transpiring in our nation is an increasing hatred of God, His Word and His ways.

In my lifetime, I have never seen such blatant and incessant animosity toward Christ and His followers. We should not be surprised, because the Scripture tells us that if they hated the Lord Jesus Christ, they surely would despise those who worship and serve Him.


So let’s be clear. While believers should never raise voices of hate against anyone, the real object of hate in our nation (that has been so blessed by God) is none other than God Himself. What has been historically called good and righteous is now called evil, and what was evil is now called good. The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).

In what I can only describe as unbelievable, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Mongtomery, Ala., has labeled a number of Christian organizations—such as the Family Research Council led by my friend Tony Perkins, and D. James Kennedy Ministries-—hate organizations simply because they hold to the teachings of the Bible on key social issues like same-sex marriage. Powerful contributors to the SPLC include Apple President Tim Cook and financial services giant J.P. Morgan. The leftist-progressive media frequently reference the SPLC in their reporting.


We need to pray for those who hate the Gospel, those who hate the Name of Jesus, those who hate His followers—that they will come out of their self-imposed darkness and into the light of God’s forgiveness through faith and repentance in Christ, who gave Himself for our sins.

The love of Jesus is the supreme antidote against the hate of our culture. It is the love that saved us from our iniquities and will save whomever will call on His Name.

— Franklin Graham, Decision Magazine, From Franklin Graham: Hate What God Hates, October 3, 2017

The Bible Says No One Does Good — No Not One

no one is good

I recently posted an excerpt from an article written by Michelle Lesley detailing her view of the human condition. According to Lesley, humans — Christian and unbeliever alike — are:

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

Commenters rightly objected to Lesley’s trashing of human self-esteem and her debasement of human goodness. The question I want to answer today is whether Lesley’s theological beliefs have a Biblical basis. Liberal and Progressive Christians are angered and offended by Lesley’s words — and rightly so. That said, Liberals and Progressives have developed unique and, at times, intellectually incomprehensible ways to hold on to what the Bible says about the love, kindness, and mercy of God while, at the same time, pretending all the verses that support Lesley’s beliefs either don’t exist or mean something other than Evangelicals say they mean.

Both sides of the theological divide make things up as they go, shaping God and Jesus into a deity in their own image. No two Christians worship the same God. Personal beliefs and experiences shape and mold God into a being acceptable to each Christian. This is especially true in Evangelicalism where the priesthood of the believer — every Christian has direct access to God — turns each Christian into his own final authority. As a pastor, I had countless Christians take issue with something I said during one of my sermons. Sometimes, people would get so angry with me over what they believed was heresy that they would leave the church. More than a few congregants told me after confronting me and hearing my response, “well, pastor, we are just going to have to agree to disagree.” And so it goes, with every Evangelical thinking he or she is infallibly right. Armed with an inerrant, infallible Bible, written and given to them by a supernatural, infallible God, Evangelicals, with great certitude, believe they are absolutely R-I-G-H-T. When challenged to “prove” their contentions, they say, the Bible says _________________.

Lesley, if required, can easily find Biblical justification for her abhorrent, anti-human beliefs. The Bible can be used to prove almost anything. Asking ten Christians a theological question will elicit twelve opinions. The Bible says that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism, yet, as any unbiased observer of Christianity can attest, modern Christianity has MANY Lords, MANY faiths, and MANY baptisms. The Bible says that Jesus’ followers will be known by their unity and love for each other. Yet, Christianity is rife with internecine warfare, bitter debates, and sectarian division.

Lesley believes, as do most Evangelicals, that Jesus, the virgin-born, sinless son of God, died on the cross for human sin. Jesus took upon himself our sin and suffered indignation, torture, and death that should have been ours. As our substitute, Jesus suffered the wrath of God that we deserved. His blood atonement on the cross appeased God, the father, and satisfied our sin debt. Through the death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead three days later, humans can find redemption/salvation/deliverance. The only way anyone makes it to Heaven after death is by and through Jesus Christ. (I speak broadly here, knowing that there is broad diversity within Christianity concerning Christ’s atonement. Arminians will view matters differently from Calvinists and Pelagians.)

Why do humans need salvation? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross? One word: SIN. According to the Bible, sin is transgression of the law of God. Evangelicals believe the Bible is God’s standard of objective morality. The definition of “sin” is determined not by human opinion, but by the Bible. God said__________, end of story. Evangelicals trace the human sin nature all the way back to Adam and Eve and the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve were created by God without sin, yet thanks to a talking, upright-walking snake (Satan) tempting them, Adam and Eve sinned against God and were cast out of the Garden of Eden. From that moment forward — five to six thousand years ago — all humans are born sinners.

It is from this understanding of the Bible that Lesley wrote what she did about her fellow humans. The Bible says that babies come forth from the womb speaking lies, that none of us has the capacity to do good, no not one. We are sheep who have gone astray. We, by nature, hate God and are at variance with him. These things, according to Lesley, can be said of atheist and Christian alike. The only difference is that the Christian has prostrated himself before God, confessed his sins, and asked Jesus to save and forgive him. Because the Christian has done so, Jesus stands between the sinner and God — who still hates sin and those who do it. When God looks at the saved sinner, all he sees is Jesus. Praise the Lord, right?

When the Michelle Lesleys of the world denigrate people, emphatically saying that humans are vile, awful people, they do so because that is how the Bible describes the human race. This provides yet another reminder that the Bible is an anti-human text best suited for the dustbin of human history. Perhaps it is time for Christians to band together and write a new Bible, one that better reflects our 21st century understanding of the world. Doing so would be an admission that the Bible is a human, not divine book, but everyone except Evangelicals and other conservative Christians already know this. The Bible, in its present form, represents the thinking of Bronze-age and first-century people. Despite what Evangelicals say, the Bible is not an unchangeable, timeless book. The Bible is not an inexhaustible text that gives readers something new every time they read it. Imagine how much better our world would be if a new Bible was written, especially if the text was based on modern sensibilities and knowledge.

Bruce, the Bible says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. How dare you suggest a new Bible be written! What’s next, a new Jesus? Well, now that you mention it…No need. Christians have been manufacturing new Jesuses for two thousand years. Lesley and her Evangelical friends think their version of Jesus is identical to First-Century Jesus/Bible Jesus, but an honest reading of the Bible reveals that whatever Christianity is today, it has very little, if anything, to do with an itinerant Jewish carpenter who walked the land of Palestine 2,000 years ago. That Jesus was swallowed up by the Apostle Paul’s Jesus, never to be seen again.

Lesley’s view of humanity has real world implications. Such thinking destroys self-esteem, often leading to psychological trauma. Countless former Evangelicals are in therapy due to the teachings mentioned in this post. This is why such beliefs must be exposed and repudiated. For people who still believe in God, there are better expressions of faith than that which is peddled by Lesley and her fellow Evangelicals. You don’t need to spend one more moment in a church where your sense of self-worth is pummeled with a Bible club, with the goal being the destruction of who you really are.

Did you grow up in a family/church that believed as Lesley does? How did these beliefs affect you psychologically? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: You Are NOT a Good Person says Michelle Lesley

michelle lesley

I am absolutely weary of some of the memes aimed at Christian women these days. You know the ones I mean, ladies- the ones with lovely pictures of flowers or an ocean or a meadow with a superimposed flowing script practically BEGGING us to believe how much worth we have to God, how awesome we are, how we need to discover the greatness within, how God gives us limitless potential and a superfantastic divine purpose, blah, blah, blah.

You know why they have to take that begging tone to try to get us to believe those things? Because they’re not true. You know it, and I know it.

You’re not awesome or great or imbued with some radical purpose or potential that will magically make your life phenomenal and give you oodles of self esteem once you discover it.

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

That’s why these memes and false teachers have to try so hard to convince us of how terrific we are- deep down we know we’re not. It’s a lie. And putting all our eggs in the basket of that lie of greatness sets us up for disappointment and self-loathing every time we sin.

Ladies, stop listening to this hearts and flowers, cotton candy, pump up your ego so you’ll feel better about yourself dreck, and put your faith and hope in the One who will never let you down. The One who looked at all your nasty thoughts and evil deeds and said, “I’m going to the cross for her anyway.” The One who sees all your daily faults and failures and is still willing to forgive when you repent. The One who’s faithful to you even when you’re not faithful to Him.

Stop focusing on how great you are – because you’re not – and put your focus on Christ and how great, and awesome, and superfantastic, and terrific He is. Because if you’re feeling bad about yourself, it’s not because you don’t have a high enough self esteem. It’s because you don’t have a high enough Christ esteem.

We’re not worthy. He is. Let’s get over ourselves and give Him the glory, and honor, and attention, and focus, and praise He so richly deserves.


— Michelle Lesley, Michelle Lesley: Give me church ladies, or I die, You’re Not Awesome…and You Know it, September 19,2017

Karen’s Story: Growing Up Catholic

guest post

Guest post by Karen (Karen the Rock Whisperer)

When my mother and father stood in front of the Catholic priest that cold, wet day in February, 1944, at the Army base in Medford, Oregon, they made the usual promises. Implicit in those promises, and in the willingness of the priest to marry them, was that they would raise any offspring as Catholic. For my father was a non-churched Lutheran, and my mother was a devout Catholic.

My father shipped out to the Pacific Theater two days later, and my mother went back to Oakland, California, to continue waiting tables and praying for her beloved’s safe return. Daddy spent time in the Philippines at an army hospital as a med tech. He’d studied hard for the position, knowing he didn’t want to be a regular soldier and kill anyone. He spent his nights stitching up damaged soldiers, giving his meals away to starving Philippine children, and doing midnight  requisitions of foodstuffs to feed himself and his fellow medics who were doing the same thing. But at last, he was discharged and came home to his wife.

Before the war, Daddy had been a manager for a string of grocery stores in the Midwest, where my parents grew up. His role was in starting new stores, and overseeing their management until they got on their feet. It was a job that demanded a lot of traveling. After the war, he decided to become an accountant. He went to college thanks to support from the US government, and Mama continued to wait tables to feed them. He finished a four-year degree in three years, and went to work as a junior accountant in a small firm. Eventually he would get his Public Accountant certification (which doesn’t exist any more, it’s been replaced by the more stringent Certified Public Accountant certification).

With a steady income, it was time to have a family. My parents tried, and tried, and tried. Years later, when my mother had a hysterectomy, it was revealed that her ovaries had never developed normally. But meanwhile, eventually, my parents came to the conclusion that it was time to consider adoption. They got on a waiting list with a local Catholic adoption agency. And waited. And waited. And then, one day in 1959, the call came. A baby was due to be born, and its parents were putting it up for adoption. Would my parents take it? They were overjoyed.

So, I arrived on the scene, a most beloved addition to the family. My mother spent the first six months of my life in utter agony, sure that she was not an adequate mother, and that the agency would take me away. But the agency decided I was in a very good home indeed, and gave my parents their blessing. I was permanently their child. There was much celebration over that decision.

Now it was time to raise the perfect Catholic daughter.

My parents, as parents, lucked out, though they didn’t realize it. They got a smart but uber-compliant child. They didn’t question this luck, they figured they were simply doing everything right. The truth was, the little girl that was me suffered from depression. It would be a condition that would dog me my entire life, and still does, though now psychotropic drugs help greatly. But meanwhile, they had the perfect daughter, though she tended to put on too many pounds for her age. Other than that, she was smart, learned quickly to be polite, to generally shut up until spoken to, and tended to play alone and quietly. What could be better?

Also, that daughter was becoming a Good Catholic. I went to Catholic schools starting in first grade, and continued through high school. They were excellent schools for the most part, especially in Oakland, which had at the time a dismal public school system. So I learned about God, Jesus, Mary, the Holy Spirit, math, English, science, and many other subjects. It helped that the schools I attended were run by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, an uber-liberal band of nuns who were focused on good education and social justice. I have no memories of authoritarian nuns wielding rulers. Instead, I remember warm, engaging women who encouraged all their charges to love one another and love those who especially needed love in their lives. Their goal was to create what are now (in a good sense) known as Social Justice Warriors. They wanted their students to make a difference in the lives of people who needed it. This ethos has stuck with me over the years, even as my beliefs have changed radically.

My conservative parents had no idea my nuns were so liberal. I didn’t enlighten them.

I faithfully went to Confession weekly. This is where you go confess your sins to a priest. He gives you a penance of prayers to say or things to do, and absolves you of your sins. The prayers are for thought-sins or small misbehaviors that can’t be righted. But a priest will counsel a penitent to make right a sin against someone else, such as stealing. I remember as a child, trying to figure out what sins I’d committed that week. I really was a good kid, well-behaved, loved to live in books, and didn’t sin a whole lot. But I must have done something wrong. It was difficult and troubling.

I don’t remember my First Communion, which is a big deal for Catholics and occurs around second grade, I think. This is when children are considered old enough to understand that they are actually partaking of Jesus’ real body. The belief is that though the bread or wafers and wine still appear to be conventional foodstuffs, they are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. In most Catholic churches, wine is seldom passed, and most attendees at Mass only partake of the bread/wafers.

I do remember bits of my Confirmation. This happens in late elementary school or middle school, when children are considered to be old enough and educated enough in their religion to be considered full Catholics in good standing. Like First Communion, it involves a church ceremony. I think the girls wore white dresses. I don’t remember what the boys wore. We each had to choose a Confirmation Name, preferably the name of a saint, who would inspire us. I wanted to choose Deborah, who in the Old Testament was a Judge. My mother insisted I choose Anne, who in Catholic mythology is the mother of the Blessed Mother Mary. (You can see, from that interaction, that my mother and I had different ideas about my path in life.) I was horribly embarrassed to be addressed in the ceremony as Anne.

The problems started happening in high school. I started to doubt. I started to read bits of the Bible, which is normally not a thing that Catholics do. Catholics are not discouraged from reading the Bible, and in fact there are always Bible readings as part of a Catholic Mass (church service). But it isn’t encouraged, the way that it is in Evangelical churches. There are seldom Catholic Bible studies. But I read stuff… and it bothered me. I had been raised by my parents and my nuns to believe that a person who seeks to do right, who confesses her sins, whose heart was focused on a loving father God, would eventually go to heaven. But the Bible revealed another side of God. A non-loving side. I was disturbed.

Part of the problem was that I had been praying earnestly my entire life, but had never felt the presence of God. It was like talking to a brick wall. That gets old after a while. I had never had a spiritual experience that might convince me that God was real. My spiritual life had gotten very difficult. I remember a high school religion class assignment to write a poem about the presence of God in my life. I simply couldn’t do it. I handed in something about nature, and it came back with my teacher demanding, “Where is God in this?”

Off to college. My teenage rebellion was not actually intentional, but I’d chosen engineering as a major. My dad, who was paying for college, was cool with it.  My mother was mortified. Engineering was a man’s job! My first three years, I was still a Sunday churchgoer at the Catholic Student Community church (Newman Center). I wasn’t sure what I believed, but this was a crowd of liberal, service-focused people and I enjoyed their company. A student music group led the hymns, and sometimes played for us rather than having us sing. Fantastic musicians. There’s a lot to be said for churchgoing; it fulfills a need for social connection with like-minded people. Hymns you’ve sung since childhood resonate. Catholic Masses are pretty tightly scripted with a specific liturgy. There are Bible readings, with the last being from the Gospels, and a sermon. Then there are familiar prayers, blessing of bread and wine, and Communion. In that church, rather than the traditional wafers, communion bread was Portuguese Sweet Bread baked by community members. (I took my turn at baking it.) We passed around baskets of bread and cups of wine. It felt like we were all family.

But I was drifting away. The theology made less and less sense to me. I had no sense of God in my life. The church’s position on things like abortion and birth control were evil. I’d acquired a boyfriend, later a fiancé, who was raised in an Evangelical tradition and thought poorly of everything having to do with Catholicism. He was on his own path toward becoming an atheist, but he wasn’t there yet. But under his influence, I stopped going to church. It let me sleep in on Sunday mornings, which to a college student is a real blessing itself.

Then came the issue of marriage. My mother was adamant. If I didn’t get married in a Catholic church, she wouldn’t consider me to be married. I was too young then to call her bluff, so we made arrangements to be married at the same Newman Center where I’d attended services. We would marry after my fiancé’s graduation, though I still had a couple of quarters of schooling left. At the time, the Catholic Church required that we get premarital counseling from our priest, and a dispensation from the local Bishop so that I could marry a non-Catholic. The counseling session went well, and the dispensation was treated as a bit of routine paperwork.

On the sunny morning of June 21, 1980, we were married in the small Newman Center church in Davis, California. Including ourselves, the priest, and the harpsichordist who played our music, there were 17 people total… plus the neighborhood cat who wandered into the church in the middle of the ceremony. The ceremony was merely a wedding, without an optional full Mass. The reception was cake and punch on the church lawn; I was juggling Evangelical, alcohol-hating in-laws with parents who believed you couldn’t properly have an afternoon or evening reception without it. So we had cake and punch at 11 am.

It was the last time I willingly attended a Catholic service, except for other people’s weddings and funerals. I didn’t realize it yet, but I was on the fast track to becoming an atheist. I would take a short side trip into Evangelicalism, though I never bought into most of it; I simply liked the idea of a church community that my husband would accept. But the Catholic Church and I were done. I’d had it with any theology that treated good people badly because they didn’t believe the right things, or engaged in consensual sex outside of marriage, or accepted the need for abortion sometimes, or embraced birth control. I’d had it with any theology that treated women as somehow being less than men. A few years later, after my depression finally was diagnosed and treated, I would realize I’d had it with theology in general. But leaving the Catholic Church was a huge first step.

Sin and the Hostile World: Changing One’s Worldview

Guest post by Melody

There are roughly three ways of looking at the world, the universe, and nature: it is inherently hostile, it is indifferent, or it is loving  – three very different positions with quite huge consequences for one’s worldview. This past week, I realized that while I rationally see nature as basically indifferent—it simply is, it exists for its own sake; we are the ones that add the value, for better or for worse—I emotionally still see the world as hostile sometimes.

I was raised in a typical Evangelical fashion. Everyone is a sinner. The ‘world’ is hostile towards us—no one ever focused on our own hostility towards this so-called evil world—but God is on our side, so we will win eventually. The indoctrination, combined with my own personal negative experiences, led me to believe that yes, people were all bad at their core and so was the world, and so was I. It’s no surprise that such a belief does not help with feeling comfortable either on this earth or within one’s own skin.

Beliefs can be very harmful and divisive. In this scenario, there is always an enemy. There is always some sort of (spiritual) war going on. This war rhetoric also creates an intensity to one’s normal everyday life that may not be meant for anything else except real threatening situations. If there are demons and spiritual attacks everywhere, normal life will never be boring. This sounds a lot better than it is though, because a little boring is good. It is peaceful and restful. This state of calm hardly exists in people who see a spiritual threat on every corner, in every book they read, in every person they meet. They get worn out fighting imaginary threats.

To them, the world is hostile. Jesus was persecuted and we will be too. Jesus suffered at the hands of unbelievers and we will too: just look at all the signs! In order to hold onto this view, negative experiences get magnified and all good ones get disregarded, creating a huge negative spiral. Because I personally felt that some people were not trustworthy, I could myself easily believe that we were all sinful at heart; that no one but God could be trusted. I have believed this for the longest time. There were pastors who were untrustworthy in our church, family members who were untrustworthy… I could go on. It was far too easy to believe that sin was winning in this world, that the dark was winning and we absolutely, definitely needed God. All of us.

Now, I’m trying to change my worldview; to no longer see myself as a bad sinful person who has to do good things to make up for that, but who will always fail, because, doesn’t the Bible, in Romans 3:10, say that: “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’”? Seeing myself as bad, as well as everyone else, does nobody any good. That is not to say that bad people do not exist: clearly some people are rapists, murderers etc. But the concept of us all being sinful beings and everyone as inherently bad does so much harm. Most people are neither entirely good nor entirely bad—nor do they have to be—there are shades of grey everywhere, possibly even more than fifty…

At the moment, I see the world as indifferent. There’s too much darkness in this world for me to see it as loving, but I also no longer want to see it as hostile either. Besides, for it to be either one of those, there would have to be someone or something that made the world so; and that is precisely the belief I have given up — the belief that everything and everyone is a helpless pawn in a huge fight between invisible beings. There is no God with a good plan for the world as there is no Devil with a bad one. The earth simply is and we are on it  as long as we manage not to destroy it, which we unfortunately might.

I want to see myself — and others — as a good person who may sometimes make mistakes, instead of as someone who has to do good to redeem herself without there ever even being a real possibility that she can succeed in doing so. Evangelical Christianity has the power to break people like that, because there is never even any point in trying. Everyone is sinful and will remain so; all good things one does are by God’s power and strength anyway. This view of humanity and life is pitch-black. It’s not easy to preserve one’s mental health in such a setting; it might even be impossible.

Mostly I want to find rest and peace within myself, to accept myself and others, to accept the indifference of nature and people alike; to move from a worldview where there’s a constant spiritual war to one where there is just as much uncertainty, but where there are no evil intentions behind that uncertainty — a life where good and bad exist but where they are not handed out on purpose.

(1) is a clear example of this state of mind. It’s about men staying pure of thought: they might need to avoid billboards—change their route to work if necessary—or the beach. It’s easy to laugh at but it is also heartbreaking because that is not an easy way to live, or a way to live at all. It is choking all joy out of life.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Watching “Sin” on the TV by Jeff Maples


The biblical principle is simple. If it’s sinful to perform and produce, it’s sinful to watch. But the American church is so morally degenerate that she will not accept this. I understand that this is a very unpopular position to take. Some of the greatest Christian minds will disagree with me on this. Why? Because, for some reason, we have conditioned ourselves to accept “artistic” representations of sin as acceptable. “A swear word here or there won’t cause me to stumble.” But that’s just the thing, you’ve already stumbled. Immersing yourself into something sinful is sinful.

It does us no good to turn from our sin if we have no desire to completely separate from sin. How can we say that we’ve repented–that we hate sin–if we still desire to watch it? Will God allow this kind of entertainment in Heaven? Have the desires of your heart really changed if you’re a believer? If not, perhaps you should seriously examine yourself. Living out your depravity through television shows, movies, and entertainment is no different than living it out in real life. It merely assuages your conscience, leading you to believe that you don’t desire to sin, while the truth is, you very well may still be a twisted, barbaric fornicating pornographer and blasphemer at heart.

What a tool Satan has in leading the world away from God.

— Jeff Maples, Pulpit & Pen, How Entertainment Has the Church in Bondage to Sin, November 28, 2016

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Did God Kill My Baby Because of My Sin? by John Piper

john piper
John Piper

Question: “Pastor John, did God cause, or would God cause, my wife to miscarry our child because I have a struggle with lust and pornography? I have a lot of guilt right now, and I don’t know how to think about God’s discipline and punishment for my sin. I’m very confused, please help.”

May that discipline come in the form of harm, even death, to others that we love, as well as ourselves? And the answer is yes, it may. This was certainly the case with David’s sin of adultery and murder with Bathsheba and her husband. Nathan the prophet said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin” (2 Samuel 12:13). And then the next thing, “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord” — and surely that is what pornography is — “the child who is born to you shall die” (2 Samuel 12:14).

So, I would certainly say in my own life — now hear this carefully — I would certainly say in my own life the most painful and humbling disciplining from the Lord has regularly been though the pain and suffering and sometimes death of those I love, rather than through any blows against my own body. Oh, that we only suffered in our own body. This has been the way the deepest Christians have always thought about the losses through the death of those they love. Jonathan Edwards preached numerous sermons about the way the Lord disciplines a church by taking away a godly pastor in death. Edwards’s godly wife Sarah spoke about kissing the rod of God in the death of her 54-year-old husband — a rod of discipline that she felt more than anyone. She called it a rod of God on her back. And she kissed it.

Every loss that we endure as sinful children of God have two designs: one from Satan, one from God. Satan designs our unbelief and rebellion and renunciation and guilt and paralysis and loss of faith. God designs our purification and that we would hope less in this world and more in God who raises the dead.

I don’t know whether our friend who wrote this question lost his child in miscarriage as a direct discipline from God because of his pornography. I do not know. He does not know. I do know that in the loss of the child, God wills a new humility and a new submission and a new faith and new purity through the pain of this loss.

— John Piper, Desiring God, Did My Lust Cause Our Miscarriage?, November 14, 2016

Justin Bieber Sings a “Worship” Song the Crowd Thinks is a Love Song


Justin Bieber, raised in a Fundamentalist Christian home, continues to struggle with the vestiges of a life left long ago. Evangelicals, hanging on every superficial mention of Jesus as proof that their God is real, see in Bieber’s performance below proof that he is still one of them. Never mind that the song I Could Sing of Your Love Forever never mentions God or Jesus or that the next song, Cold Water, reverences getting high, all that matters is that The Bieb sang a praise and worship song.

This video is a perfect example of how watered-down praise and worship music has become. I complained of this years ago, saying that many of the songs could easily be turned into boyfriend/girlfriend love songs. Out of the thousands of adoring French fans who heard Bieber sing this medley, how many of them knew the first song was a religious tune? Not many. Less than one percent of Frenchmen are Evangelical. Protestants make up two percent of the population. The overwhelming majority of Frenchmen are Roman Catholic, and only five percent of them regularly attend mass. Sixty-three percent of French youth say they belong to “no religion.”  I think it is safe to say, based on the aforementioned statistics, that most of the concert goers thought Bieber was singing an easy-to-learn love song.

Video Link

I feel sorry for Bieber and other raised-Evangelical pop stars. Superstars such as Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Bieber have all acted out in ways that brought the disapproval of their parents and the outrage of offended Evangelicals who thought these artists were on Team Jesus®. Their actions, often displayed for the world to see, are their way of rebelling against their Fundamentalist upbringings. In Cyrus’ case, she has repudiated her former beliefs, lashing out at Fundamentalists who continue to attempt to control her sexuality and censor her lyrics. Bieber, on the other hand, is still trying to hang on to Jesus. Several times a year the Hollywood gossip blogs and magazines will regale us with all the juicy details of Bieber’s latest youthful indiscretion. The latest? Nude (frontal) photographs of Bieber and his girlfriend. There, hung in all its glory, is Justin Bieber’s junk. I have no doubt that Bieber sought forgiveness from God for his latest “sin” and later sought out counseling from whichever Evangelical pastor is currently his spiritual guide.

If I could give Bieber counsel I would tell him to let go of his Fundamentalist parents and his Evangelical upbringing and enjoy life. Stop feeling guilty over whatever behavior your parents or other Evangelicals are telling you is “sinful.” It’s your life, and you are free to live it as you wish. Just remember the paparazzi are always near, ready to splay your life before their readers. Be discreet, but sin away!

Bruce Gerencser